The Barnes & Noble Review
James Patterson's novels are unpretentious thrill fests, narrative roller coasters that keep you glued to your seat by the centrifugal force of his rapid-fire, pithy chapters and his unadorned yet effective prose. The megabestselling author of Kiss the Girls, 2nd Chance, and Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas sets out to tell a story, plain and simple -- and always does so with irresistible chemistry.
In The Beach House, Patterson reunites with his writing buddy Peter de Jonge (Miracle on the 17th Green) to tell the tale of one man's search for his brother's killer. Columbia law student Jack Mullen has just about everything going for him: He's a summer associate at a prestigious law firm in New York City; is dating the drop-dead-gorgeous daughter of Barry Neubauer, one of the richest men in the United States; and spends weekends at Neubauer's home in the Hamptons. But Jack is no spoiled rich kid. He has blue-collar roots, and his father and grandfather do their best to keep him grounded in reality.
The same can't be said for Jack's brother, the handsome, devil-may-care Peter. Peter works as a valet in the Hamptons, parking cars for the rich and famous, and tools around town on his $20,000 Mercedes Benz motorcycle. When Peter's body is found on the private beach of Neubauer's estate, the police call it an accidental drowning -- maybe even a suicide. Jack's not buying it, though. He begins his own investigation and soon discovers that his brother was involved in some kinky sex games with many of the richest and most powerful people in town. The more Jack probes into the dark secrets of the town's residents, the more he finds his life in danger: Someone wants him to shut his mouth and walk away and will do anything to make that happen....
Overflowing with action and suspense, The Beach House is a thrilling story of beautiful people, money, power, sex, murder...oh, and let's not forget revenge. This grab-you-by-the-seat-of-your-Ralph-Lauren-khakis tale is an adrenaline rush that makes the perfect beach read -- all year round. (Stephen Bloom)
Patterson's latest beach read, a break from his Alex Cross series, is a revenge fantasy set in the East Hamptons. Townie roustabout Peter Mullen is barely introduced before he's found dead outside the posh home of billionaire media tyrant Barry Neubauer during a celebrity-packed Memorial Day blowout. Peter's brother Jack doesn't believe that Peter killed himself, and he enlists the help of his motley band of friends to find out what really happened. Standing between Peter and the truth is a crooked police department, Jack's girlfriend (who also happens to be Neubauer's daughter) and a goon called The Fixer. Much of the book is breezy and lighthearted, devoid of the sadism that characterizes Patterson's thrillers. By the end, fans may start to miss Alex Cross, whose presence could have given this flyaway story some weight.
Patterson's second coauthored novel of the year (after the current bestseller 2nd Chance, written with Andrew Gross) is a relatively rare stand-alone for this immensely popular writer. Unlike some of Patterson's stand-alones, however, including the most recent, Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas, this doesn't move Patterson into new territory: it's a slick, vastly enjoyable yet far-fetched thriller i.e., typical Patterson. Its hero is a Columbia University law student, Jack Mullen, who's out to avenge the death of his younger brother, Peter, found dead on the Amagansett, L.I., property of the immensely wealthy Neubauer family, a few miles from Jack and Peter's Montauk home. The cops say Peter drowned; a glance at the corpse tells Jack that his brother was beaten to death. The rest of the novel traces Jack's efforts, with the help of a female private eye/love interest, plus his elderly grandfather and a band of Montauk locals, to prove that Peter was murdered and that billionaire Barry Neubauer played a role in his demise. Arrayed against Jack are a tough cop, high-placed lawyers and a sadistic killer all owned by Neubauer money. Jack's diggings lead to evidence not only of Peter's murder but of its part in a coverup involving sexual scandal and blackmail; to get the justice that's denied them, Jack and his friends take the law into their own hands, kidnapping Neubauer and his cohorts and trying them in a kangaroo court whose proceedings they broadcast on TV. Smooth as a vanilla milk shake and no more sophisticated, written in 113 short chapters that won't tax anyone's attention span, this is smart, market-savvy, populist entertainment. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Yes, another book by Patterson; the prolific author can spin out three books a year. This one centers on law student Jack Mullen, who doesn't believe that his brother's drowning death is an accident. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Not to fear: Just because megaselling Patterson has teamed up once more with journalist collaborator de Jonge (Miracle on the 17th Green) doesn't make the pace of this slick, ludicrous thriller any slower, the puppets any more complex, or the sentences any longer. The East Hampton cops say that proletarian nobody Peter Mullen stopped parking cars to smoke a joint and drown during zillionaire Barry and Campion Neubauer's Memorial Day Party in Montauk. Forensic evidence shows that Peter was beaten to death before he was tossed into the frigid water. But when Peter's brother Jack, a student at Columbia Law who's a summer associate at the Manhattan firm of Nelson, Goodwin and Mickel, and his old high-school buddies press the authorities to tell the truth, Rory Hoffman, a sinister thug called the Fixer, presses back, and soon the good guys are on the ropes. Jack's father suffers a fatal heart attack. Fisherman Fenton Gridley is nearly drowned himself. Suffolk County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Jane Davis is intimidated into perjury. Hairdresser Sammy Giamalva's 11:30 appointment cancels at the last minute. Jack's warned off the case by Chief Detective Frank Volpi, and his girlfriend, the Neubauers' daughter Dana, bails on him-though luckily, Nelson, Goodwin and Mickel's top investigator, Pauline Grabowski, who's just as smart and beautiful, is poised to take her place. When Jack's fired from the firm and Pauline soon follows, it's clear that there's no place the Neubauer tentacles don't reach, and the outcome of the inquest is a foregone conclusion. What isn't obvious, though in retrospect it should be, is Jack's scheme for making sure justice is done anyway. A vigilante pipe-dream topped off by toothlessly shocking revelations about characters even less substantial than the celebrity cameos: Dominick Dunne, Latrell Sprewell, Geraldo Rivera, and Billy "Mudman" Simon.
Read an Excerpt
The Beach House
By James Patterson
WARNER BOOKS Copyright © 2002 SueJack, Inc.
All right reserved.
Chapter One EVEN BY THE HEADY NORM of millennial boomtown Manhattan, where master craftsmen paint frescoes on subway walls, the new law offices of Nelson, Goodwin and Mickel were over the top. If the great downtown courthouses around Broadway were palaces of justice, the gleaming fortyeight-story tower at 454 Lexington Avenue was a monument to winning.
My name is Jack Mullen, and as a summer associate at Nelson, Goodwin, I guess I was winning, too. Still, it wasn't exactly what I had in mind when I entered Columbia Law School at the advanced age of twenty-six. But when a secondyear student with $50,000 in college loans is offered a summer position at the most prestigious firm in the city, he doesn't turn it down.
The phone started ringing the instant I stepped into my small office.
I picked up. Female operator on tape: "You have a collect call from Huntsville, Texas, from ..."
Male voice, also recorded: "The Mudman." Female operator again on tape: "If you wish to accept, please say yes or push the number-"
"Yes, absolutely," I interrupted. "Mudman, how are you?" "Not bad, Jack, except maybe for the fact that the state of Texas is pissing its pants at the thought of putting me down like a dog." "Dumb question."
The surprisingly high-pitched voice at the other end of the line belonged to outlaw biker Billy "Mudman" Simon, and it was coming from the pay phone in Huntsville Prison's death row. Mudman was there waiting for the lethal injection that would put him to death for murdering his teenage girlfriend nineteen years earlier.
Mudman is no saint. He admits to all manner of misdemeanors and an occasional felony during his run in the Houston chapter of the Diablos. But killing Carmina Velasquez, he says, wasn't one of them.
"Carmina was a great woman," the Mudman told me the first time I interviewed him. "One of my best friends in this miserable world. But I was never in love with her. So why would I kill her?"
His letters, trial transcripts, and records of repeated failed attempts to win a new trial were dropped on my desk three days after I started working for the firm. After two weeks decoding every wildly misspelled word, contorted phrase, and hundreds of footnotes painstakingly transcribed in tiny block letters that looked as if they had come from the unsteady hand of a grade-schooler, I was convinced he was telling the truth.
And I liked him. He was smart and funny, and he didn't feel sorry for himself, despite a truckload of reasons why he should. Ninety percent of the convicts on death row were as good as screwed the day they were born, and Mudman, with his deranged junkie parents, was no different.
Nevertheless, he had no enthusiasm for blaming them for what had happened.
"They did their best, like everyone else," he said the one time I mentioned them. "Their best sucked, but let 'em rest in peace."
Rick Exley, my supervisor on the project, couldn't have cared less about Mudman's character or my rookie intuition. What mattered to him was that there were no witnesses to Velasquez's murder and that the Mudman had been convicted completely on the basis of blood and hair samples from the crime scene. That all happened before the forensic breakthrough of DNA testing. It meant we had a reasonable chance to be granted our request that blood and hair samples be taken to confirm that they matched the DNA of the physical evidence held in a vault somewhere in Lubbock.
"I'd hate to get your hopes up for nothing, but if the state lets us test, we could get a stay of execution."
"Don't ever worry about getting my hopes up for nothing, Jack. Where I'm at, insane hope is welcome anytime. Bring 'em on."
I was trying not to get too excited myself. I knew this pro bono project, with the pompous name of "the Innocence Quest," was primarily a PR stunt and that Nelson, Goodwin and Mickel didn't build forty-eight stories in midtown by looking out for the innocent poor on death row.
Still, when the Mudman was cut off after his allotted fifteen minutes, my hands were shaking.
Excerpted from The Beach House by James Patterson Copyright © 2002 by SueJack, Inc.
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.